The Monteverdi Choir, specializing in Early Music, is one of the most prestigious choirs in the world.
The 1950s had seen a sudden growth of interest in Baroque and earlier music. To many, one of the characteristics of this wave of the early music movement was a careful, academic quality to performances, which therefore tended to be dry and ascetic.
In March 1964 John Eliot Gardiner, then an undergraduate at Cambridge University, formed the Monteverdi Choir for a performance of Monteverdi's Vespers at King's College Chapel at Cambridge. His aim was to bring out the passion and color of Italian music within the solid British choral tradition. The choir debuted in London in a 1966 appearance in Wigmore Hall.
Since then the Monteverdi Choir has expanded its repertory in both directions from its base in the Baroque Era, achieving a large and broad repertory. Often appearing with the English Baroque Soloists (a period instruments orchestra founded by Gardiner), the choir is famous for rich, committed performances with a strongly vital rhythmic sense and mastery of style of various eras.
It has performed and recorded Renaissance and early Baroque music (by composers such as Schütz, Gabrieli, Gesualdo, Carissimi, Campra and Leclair), more familiar Baroque music (all of Bach's major choral works, most of Purcell's semi-operas, several Handel oratorios), Classical Era masterworks (Mozart's Requiem and C minor Mass, Haydn's Seasons, Mozart's Thamos King of Egypt, Beethoven's Leonore and Missa Solemnis), the Romantic (Berlioz's Roméo et Juliet, the Choral Music of Schubert, Verdi's Requiem and Falstaff, Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem (two recordings), Léhar's Merry Widow) and the 20th Century era (Britten's Spring Symphony, Kurtág's Songs of Despair, and music of Percy Grainger).
The choir frequently tours. One of its most notable trips, in 1989, marked its 25th Anniversary and included singing Monteverdi's Vespers in St Mark's Basilica in Venice, the acoustic Monteverdi had in mind when he wrote it. In 1996 it participated in the inaugural Lincoln Center Festival in New York, where it joined Gardiner's Orchestre Révolutionare et Romantique in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Missa Solemnis. It has presented a series of concerts exploring little known choral/orchestral masterworks by Robert Schumann, which it subsequently recorded.
It has recorded for DG Archive, Philips, Erato, Decca (London) and EMI. ~ Joseph Stevenson